Monday, August 11, 2014

The Louvre

Glenn and Angie at the Louvre
The Louvre Museum is actually a former royal palace located on the Right Bank of the Seine River in Paris.  It was originally built in the late 12th century on what was then the City's western edge. What was at first a dark fortress, was transformed into a more modern dwelling by Francois I and later transformed into a grand palace by Louis XIV.

It has been a museum since 1793, when the revolutionary Assemblee Nationale decreed that it would be a national palace to gather together all the monuments of the sciences and arts.

The controversial glass pyramid was inaugurated in 1989.  It was designed to help facilitate the flow  of visitors to the museum.  The now iconic pyramid was built by famed American Architect I.M. Pei, and rises from the center of the Cour Napoleon.  It is the focal point of the museum's main pedestrian traffic corridors and also serves as an entrance to the large reception hall beneath.

I love this photo!
There was no glass pyramid when I last visited the Louvre.  I've been to Paris a few times since, but not to this great museum.  It is a truly wonderful place to visit.

Tourists from all over the world converge at the Louvre
The magnificent artworks housed in this facility are awe-inspiring.  Much of it seems familiar, too.  It's the stuff that fills your history and art books in school, like the famed painting of Napoleon's Coronation by Jacques-Louis David (below).

Glenn posing with Jacque-Louis David's Coronation of Napoleon
This is the "snap-shot" of a pivotal moment in French History, captured by a very politically savvy and diplomatic artist.

You can see Glenn in the photo above giving us a means by which to measure the tremendous proportions of this work.  It is HUGE.

Not wanting to be beholden to the Church, Napoleon had snatched the Emperor's crown from the Catholic Archbishop who was to place it on his head, and literally crowned himself.  The artist David chose to show the moment where Napoleon crowned his famous consort, Josephine, rather than the moment that shocked all of those in attendance. 

He also diplomatically filled in the crowd with important people who weren't actually there at the time, just to make Napoleon feel better.

Detail showing Napoleon crowning his Josephine
Below you see the famed Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci.  I remember being surprised at how small this portrait is!  It wasn't behind glass, either, when I saw it.

The Mona Lisa still inspires some craziness!
Don't you love seeng all the people with their cameras getting crazy over this little lady. 
There is so much energy there. Not to mention a lot of electronic media devices...  Leonardo would have been intrigued!

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa
Seeing this art, being in the same room with it, is like being transported into history.

Venus de Milo
The Venus de Milo was discovered in 1820 by a peasant who found it inside a buried niche within the ruins of an ancient city called Milos on the island of Milos in the Aegean.  French naval officers who were exploring the island found it and arranged for a purchase by the French ambassador to Turkey.  It eventually ended up in the Louvre.  They say her arms weren't found with her, only a stone hand holding an apple, which may or may not have been part of the original statue.

She's a pretty famous lady, too!

And then there's Winged Victory.  I can't see this without thinking of Audrey Hepburn in the film Funny Face.  Do you remember the scene?

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face
The Winged Victory is a 2nd-century B.C. marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, the goddess of Victory.  It was discovered in 1863, and has been on display at the Louvre since 1884, when it was placed at the head of a huge, sweeping staircase.  It has been described as "the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture".

I think it's just cool.  Wonder what she looked like with her head on?

Both the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory, and other major, irreplaceable, art works, were hidden away in 1939 in anticipation of the outbreak of war.  Wikipedia notes that they were hidden away in scenery trucks from the Comédie-Française and transported to the Châteaux de Valençay where they were safely sheltered for the duration of World War II.

The Louvre's renovated Richelieu wing was opened in 1993
The renovation of the Richelieu  wing was the biggest single expansion in the museum's history. Glazed roofs over three inner courtyards created new spaces for the display of monumental sculpture and helped other departments expand their exhibition space.

The Galleries du Carrousel, a new underground shopping mall and parking garage opened soon afterwards.

Inside the pyramid
The present-day Louvre Palace is a vast complex of wings and pavilions on four main levels (and very different from the Louvre I visited when I was young!).  It is one of the most important museums in the world, with nearly 10 million visitors each year.

It is impossible to see all of its exhibits in a single afternoon's visit.  But if you are ever in Paris, make it part of your itinerary!

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